Must Read: Cycle World Article Details How A Golfer Who Didn’t Ride Motorcycles Became CEO Of Harley-Davidson And Murdered Buell Motorcycle Company

Must Read: Cycle World Article Details How A Golfer Who Didn’t Ride Motorcycles Became CEO Of Harley-Davidson And Murdered Buell Motorcycle Company

© 2010, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

FIRST PERSON/OPINION By John Ulrich In the May 2010 issue of Cycle World magazine, former racer and Buell engineer Steve Anderson writes that new Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell doesn’t understand sportbikes–asking employees why anybody would want one–and thinks racing is a waste of money. Wandell, a golfer who didn’t ride motorcycles when he was hired, was on the job about two weeks before he started de-railing subsidiary Buell, immediately canceling plans to construct a new, bigger factory building to replace the multiple rented buildings then in use, Anderson reports. Canceling the 1125R engine supply contract alone cost Harley-Davidson at least $10 million, which could have been offset by selling engine supplier BRP the rights to manufacture and sell (along with tooling for) the pending 1125-based B2 (or Barracuda 2) project, according to Anderson. In its fourth-quarter 2009 report, Harley-Davidson stated that it cost $167.1 million to shut down Buell. The company also paid Wandell $6.4 million for his first eight months on the job as CEO. For anybody interested in how the motorcycle industry in general–and Harley-Davidson specifically–actually works, Anderson’s piece is a must-read. But be ready to be disillusioned, especially if you’ve owned Harley-Davidson stock since the IPO like I have, because it quickly becomes clear that all is not well at The Motor Company. Above all, this is a cautionary tale: History has shown that hiring a non-motorcyclist to run a motorcycle company never ends without collateral damage, and often ends with fundamental structural damage. And no, hiring a Boeing executive to run Ford is not the same thing, because at least in that case the new boss had driven and understood cars; reports that he asked employees why anybody would drive a Mustang haven’t filtered out of Ford. In this case, Buell finally had a legitimate sportbike contender in the pipeline. But instead of embracing and capitalizing on a market segment that has long yielded strong results for a number of other motorcycle companies around the world, Harley-Davidson squandered the chance to appeal to more than aging baby-boomers. With the decision to concentrate on building the same type of cruisers it has sold to the same aging customers in a market artificially propped up by various factors well-explained by Anderson, Harley-Davidson missed a chance to maximize long-term shareholder value. Here’s hoping it hasn’t also turned down the path to its ultimate extinction.

Latest Posts

MotoAmerica: Dunlop Giving Away Customized Ohvale GP-0

Rancho Cucamonga, CA: In line with Dunlop’s long-term investment in...

MotoGP: Team Gresini Racing Officially Introduced In Italy

2022 STARTS NOW: HERE IS TEAM GRESINI RACING MOTOGP Faenza...

What’s Happening At The Harley-Davidson Museum In January?

The new year brings new reasons to visit the...

R.I.P. AFM Racer Kelly Winkelbauer

Former AFM 250 Production and F2 racer Kelly Winkelbauer,...

Ducati Celebrates Best Sales Year Ever, North America Is #1 Market

Passion For Ducati Has Never Been Greater With 59,447...